TWO people were killed in what was a tragic weekend on the region’s roads.
The deaths came only hours after police launched Operation RAID, which aims to remove all impaired drivers from roads.
Truck driver Damien Strother died after crashing his vehicle at Carlsruhe, south of Kyneton, about 2am on Saturday.
Police said the southbound medium rigid truck ran off the Calder Freeway, crossed a median strip and plunged down an embankment before crossing the Campaspe River and coming to a stop on the opposite side.
Colleague Chris Portoglou, general manager of Damorange Refrigerated Transport, said staff were devastated.
“He was from Renmark and he was bringing the truck over to Werribee South after the fruit season... he didn’t normally drive,” Mr Portoglou said.
“It’s a tragedy to see it happen to him.
“He was only 30 years old; he’d just had a newborn baby.
“He was a top bloke.
“He never said a bad thing about anybody and I never heard anybody say a bad thing about him.”
Mr Portoglou said police believed fatigue was a factor in the crash.
The incident followed the death of a motorbike rider in a crash at the corner of Oak Street and Mackenzie Street West, Golden Square, at 8.10pm on Friday.
A Harley-Davidson motorbike collided with a Toyota Echo and the rider, in his 40s, died at the scene.
Friends of the motorcycle club member paid tribute to him at the site yesterday, leaving flowers, bottles of beer and a sign.
Police were yet to name the man.
A report is being prepared for the coroner.
Bendigo Leading Senior Constable Stuart Buchanan said that during Operation RAID, police would target motoring offences during the Christmas and New Year period.
“There’s an increased focus on drug and alcohol testing,” he said. “It’s important the community is aware and mindful of not driving while impaired.
“All the units on patrol have been asked to concentrate on those impaired drivers and on all traffic offences.”
Police will run the wider Summer Stay campaign into the New Year.
“If you know you’re going to have a couple of drinks, leave the car at home and arrange alternative transport – it’s simple,” Assistant Commissioner for Road Policing Robert Hill said.
“If you have a long drive ahead or know you’ll be travelling on unfamiliar roads, plan the best route, take regular breaks and avoid distractions.”